About two weeks before the holidays, a sweet-looking case of tools showed up to the Toolmonger shop accompanied by our good friend and Stanley Santa, Jimmy Addison (who some of you might remember from the Break S@#t week demo we did a while back). Under his arm he carried a black chrome socket set. We couldn’t wait to play with them.
Saying that I’m a fan of chrome tools is a bit of an understatement — I’m drawn to them like birds to shiny objects. Since Stanley’s black chrome socket set is both awesome-looking and shiny, it’s a win all the way around. I’d never had my hands on a set of black chrome before, so we decided to do what we always do in such cases: beat ‘em up and use them.
Getting the box open was a little more fun than we thought. It’s a DIY type of affair. To more clearly show what you’re getting, about a dozen screws hold the plastic shield over the sockets.
After removing the shield you need to attach the top of the case together at the hinge with a screwdriver; a push to the red pins and you’ve just assembled your box. It may sound strange, but to get the full effect of the black chrome you really need to see them in person; a photo just doesn’t do it justice.
Around the Toolmonger shop we very much appreciate sturdy, molded cases. Mechanics tools don’t have a pleasant life in the shop here, so any extra protection is a welcome thing.
The biggest advantage to the black chrome (besides looking nice) is that the black sets off the large gold etching so much you can read it about 5 feet away. It’s a huge advantage over squinting and reaching for glasses. It’s also metric and SAE, so it wound up going with us wherever we were just because you have a good shot of having all your bases covered.
It wasn’t really surprising that we liked the ratchets since they were the regular Stanley mechanics ratchets dipped in black. They are the solid, easy-to-handle, old friends we’ve come to depend on over the years.
Once in service, the black chrome was as at home as any other tool in the shop. Changing plugs or just turning the odd bolt or two the 69 piece set went where the jobs were — and they were many.
In the end, the black sheep of Stanley’s mechanics tools is more a matter of taste than anything else. They function just like any other set of sockets and ratchets, and except for the color difference they’re the same tools you’ll find wrapped in standard chrome. There’s an old saying that, with all things being equal ($65 for either version), go with the one that looks better. In the case of silver or black and gold, it’s a tough call.